Natural Pain Relief: 10 Alternatives to Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen or Aspirin

Natural Pain Relief:  Alternatives to Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen or Aspirin

The most commonly used drug in Canada are over-the counter (OTC) drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. This is not surprising seeing as household brands like Advil and Tylenol are sold in virtually every single store nationwide. In fact, whenever people experience a minor headache, muscle tension or other pain, they usually ask for an “Advil” or “Tylenol” directly instead of asking for ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, regular use of these drugs can lead to serious long-term side effects such as:

– intestinal damage

– liver failure 

– high blood pressure 

– blurred vision

Next time you experience any pain, try these alternative, natural remedies for pain relief.

  1. Ginger

According to a 2017 study, the powerful anti-inflammatory ginger is as effective as drugs like ibuprofen for pain relief. Dr. Krishna C. Srivastava, a world-renowned research on natural therapeutic spices at Odense University in Denmark, has also conducted extensive research into the pain-relieving properties of ginger. He found that ginger was superior to OTC drugs like Tylenol or Advil. His studies revealed that drugs like Advil and Tylenol only work on one level: “to block the formation of inflammatory compounds— prostaglandins and leukotrienes.” Ginger, however, blocks the production of inflammatory compounds and also offers antioxidant effects that eliminate pre-existing acidity and inflammation in the fluids within the patient’s joints.

  1. Turmeric

Traditionally used in Chinese and Indian medicine, this plant can treat arthritis and inflammation in the body. Turmeric is predominantly grown in Indonesia, India and China and is related to the ginger family. This curry spice even possesses “anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties”, says Doctor Oz. In a 2012 study, a turmeric-based product called BCM-95 reduced joint pains and swelling in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) better than diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Some common claims for turmeric include:

  • Reduces mild pain
  • Prevents inflammation
  • Reduces joint stiffness 
  • Improves circulation
  • Treat bursitis
  • Prevents blood clotting
  1. Capsaicin

This surprising natural pain relief agent is derived from a popular ingredient in spicy dishes: the chili pepper. Capsaicin is the compound found in chili peppers that produces the famous hot and spicy flavors. Once capsaicin is extracted from chili peppers, it is commonly added to creams, gels, and even patches for pain relief.

In randomised 2017 studies, 8% capsaicin patches have demonstrated effective pain relief in patients with peripheral neuropathic pain (PNP) arising from different aetiologies. This compound works by affecting your neurotransmitters, affecting how pain signals are delivered to the brain. This way, it reduces your body’s perception of nerve, joint and muscle pains.

  1. Valerian Root

This herbal remedy known as “nature’s tranquilizer” helps relieve tension, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and stress, according to Doctor Oz. 

For thousands of years, patients in Europe and Asia would drink a cup of valerian tea for natural pain relief, body ache reduction and tranquility. Valerian root works by reducing nerve sensitivity, hence alleviating feelings of pain. Despite the tranquilizing effects, studies have shown that Valerian root consumption does not affect a person’s ability to operate motor vehicles. 

Furthermore, a 2016 study published on the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, showed that Valerian root extract may reduce emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

For those suffering from insomnia, it is recommended to take 400-900 mg valerian extract 30 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime.

  1. Magnesium

Magnesium supplements can prevent and reduce pain caused by muscle spasms, migraines, and fibromyalgia. According to healthline, magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesemia, is a seriously overlooked health problem in today’s society. In fact, one study suggests that up to 75% of Americans today are not meeting their recommended intake. People suffering from magnesium deficiency are at higher risk of diabetes, chronic diarrhea, celiac disease and hungry bone syndrome. Heavy alcoholism lowers magnesium levels in the body and increases risk of the above health problems.

Doctors recommend that a dose of 250 to 500 mg of prescription magnesium a day can start to decrease these deficiencies as well as manage the pain. After several weeks of magnesium consumption, pain usually decreases, while leaving patients with more energy and decreased heart disease risk.

  1. Cats Claw

Cat’s claw is a tropical vine found in the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas of South and Central America. The bark and root can grow up to 98 feet (30 meters) tall. Its name comes from its hook-like thorns, which resemble the claws of a cat.

Cat’s claw is known for containing an anti-inflammatory agent which prevents the production of a hormone called prostaglandin that contributes to pain and inflammation. 

The root may support your immune system, possibly helping fight infections more effectively. It even has pain relieving effects. For example, a study in 40 people with rheumatoid arthritis determined that 60 mg of cat’s claw extract per day alongside regular medication resulted in a 29% reduction joint pain instances.

The recommended dosage to avoid diarrhea is 250 to 1,000 mg per dose taken one to three times daily.

  1. Boswellia

Boswellia, known as Indian frankincense, is an herbal extract that has been used for centuries in Asian and African folk medicine. It’s believed to treat chronic inflammatory illnesses as well as a number of other health conditions. This herbal extract contains active components such as resin that reduces pain and inflammation. 

One recent study, funded by a boswellia production company, found that increasing the dosage of enriched boswellia extract led to an increase in physical ability. The study found that osteoarthritis (OA) related knee pains decreased after 90 days of using boswellia. It also helped reduce the levels of a cartilage-degrading enzyme.

The herbal extract can be taken orally as a supplement or applied topically as a cream.

  1. White willow bark

White willow bark, “nature’s aspirin” contains salicin which converts to salicylic acid once it reaches the stomach. Salicin is the chemical compound found in Aspirin. Therefore, white willow bark is commonly used for pain, including:

  • Headache
  • muscle pain
  • menstrual cramps
  • RA
  • OA
  • Gout

Moreover, a few clinical studies even support the use of willow bark extracts for chronic lower back and joint pain.

Synthetically, salicylic acid may cause stomach irritation, but naturally, the salicin in white willow bark is effective in relieving inflammation, pain, and fever. The recommended dosage is 1 to 3 grams of white willow bark daily. This herbal preparation is available in several forms, including tablets, capsules, powder, and liquid.

  1. Cannabis

Cannabis is a medicinal plant used to treat pain for thousands of years. A 2018 survey conducted by Statistics Canada revealed that 14% of Canadians age 15 and older have used cannabis products. Cannabis is used for a variety of medical purposes, including:

  • Increased pleasure
  • Enhanced memory
  • Better concentration
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Regulating body movement
  • Improved appetite
  • Pain relief
  • Heightened senses

Recently, scientists have discovered the specific component in cannabis (known as CBD) that is responsible for pain relief.

CBD helps reduce chronic pain by reducing inflammation and interacting with neurotransmitters. Several human studies have found that CBD is also an effective supplement for treating pain related to multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

  1. Essential oils

Essential oils are also great for pain and inflammation. Some of the top oils for pain relief include sage, lavender and chamomile. You can apply these essential oils into your temples, chest or sore joints to relax muscles and calm the mind. 

Scientific studies have shown that aromatherapy — inhaling or absorbing aromatic plant extracts — can help soothe your mind and body, thereby relieving pain.